Experts at the Cleveland Clinic in the United States of America have said though children are not immune to COVID-19, developing a vaccine for them is still a long way coming.

According to paediatric infectious disease specialist, Dr. Frank Esper, one of the reasons for focusing on adult COVID-19 vaccine is because when children are involved in clinical trials, there is oftentimes more layers of protection to go through.

“For instance, the child and both parents typically have to agree to participate in the trial or study,” Esper explained, as published by Cleveland Clinic online recently.

“Kids are a special and vulnerable population and we try to protect them because they can’t make decisions for themselves.

“In clinical trials – whether for a vaccine or any type of treatment – we don’t want to speed things up because it’s a matter of protection and safety,” Esper said.

“So, the priority right now is for an adult vaccine, not only because of the outcomes we’re seeing, but because an adult vaccine is going to be faster to create due to the potential risk and rigorous safety precautions needed for the development of a children’s vaccine,” he added.

Experts say that immune systems in children can vary greatly, depending on age.

“A 16-year-old is going to have a much different immune system than a 16-month-old. Because of this, additional data and research is needed when evaluating a vaccine for kids,” Esper explained.

Noting that the situation is even true for influenza injections, experts say babies six months and older should get a flu immunization every year, while some kids whose ages range from six months through eight years of age may need two doses for more protection.

“This is because of differing immune system responses at different ages,” experts say.

According to Esper, children’s immune systems are growing up just as they are; adding, “We often split kids up by age groups and stages. We can’t just say every child’s immune systems are the same at any given age.”

With adults, the scenario is different.

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“For adults, we’re often lumped together from age 18 to 65 and then 65 and over.

“With children, there is a much wider range in terms of stages and ages because they are still growing and developing.

“All of this has to be taken into consideration with a vaccine, since kids at varying ages will likely respond differently.

“Because of all the challenges with kid’s immune systems and the protection and safety protocols in clinical trials, when a COVID-19 vaccine is available, it likely won’t be approved for children.

“However, it’s still important to note that in order to get a handle on the pandemic, it will require vaccinating both adults and children,” Esper said.

Explaining further, the paediatrician said in order to bring COVID-19 under control, the world needs vaccine for both adults and children as quickly as possible; adding, “But right now, most vaccine manufacturers are focusing on an adult version.”

Adducing reasons for the singular focus, Esper said, “Because data shows that severe illness from COVID-19 tends to happen to adults (especially in older adults). We’re not seeing the same sort of response or sickness in children.

“That’s not to say that children are immune to COVID-19, because they aren’t, but they tend to be more resilient and fare better if they get sick” (although a very small number of children have developed a serious inflammatory condition linked to coronavirus).

Some manufactures are already working on a children’s vaccine, but the majority are focusing on an adult version first.

“Once that is available, many of the companies will likely move onto developing one for children,” he said.